Sunday, March 9, 2008


Uncle Ted and Big Mary showed up on our doorstep wrapped in multi-colored hand-crocheted blankets, torn and clotted with mud, stickers and assorted detritus. Their teeth were chattering, and between them, holding onto both their hands, stood what looked like a three year-old girl. This was my cousin Tracey. I remember thinking she had a rather large and odd-shaped head, like a muffin pulled out of the pan before it had time to cool. It had been quite a while since we’d seen them last. The time before, after staying with us nearly three months, my dad finally had to ask them to leave after they’d tried to have an all-night orgy in the spare room and dropped acid with two creepy men none of us had ever seen. Uncle Ted (my mom’s younger brother) and his wife Big Mary (we called her this because my mom also had a younger sister named Mary, and Big Mary was…well…not small) just stood there, eyes forlorn and to the ground, holding Tracey’s hands. I’d convinced myself they’d finally gone too far and Tracey was obviously their ill-gotten, acid induced, retarded egg-headed child.

New Year’s Eve, 1999. We’d been up over three days already. We’d spent what seemed like a whole day at some crappy dance club south of Market. You couldn’t get any shit into the place thanks to the security apes at the front door stinking of Cool Water, relaxer, and sperm, so we had to ditch it all in a crumpled coffee cup in an alley a block away, leaving the club to powder our noses together every hour or so. Eventually we both got bored with the fag clubs in San Francisco and decided to hit the road. While I filled the tank of my shitty truck, Tracey bought cigarettes and red vines. Then she spent another twenty minutes soaking her head in the bathroom sink. When she finally came out, her blouse was completely drenched and her cut-off jeans skirt was soaked. She looked like she’d peed herself.

After scoring shit from some fat bitch on a ten-speed bike at a Vallejo Dairy Queen, we skidded north onto I-5. Tracey had the entire contents of a cassette tape of mine, Rickie Lee Jones’ Pirates, resting on her bare sunburned legs as she attempted to repair and reassemble the thing. Total Tweak-Fest 101, she sang off-tune the words to our favorite track on the tape, “we belong together! Dontcha know we belong together!”

I’d gotten fired from my job around five days before and had been moping around my apartment listening to records I shouldn’t have listened to even when I was twelve when Tracey called me. When she called, if she called, usually it came out of nowhere.

Her voice was all scratchy, “hells yeah Cous! She’s got good shit and the bitch owes me! ‘Sides, we can finally see that giant garden up in Canada you and the gays are always going on about in…three days tops, and Vallejo’s on the way! I can already smell the roses!”

“You haven’t smelled anything from that fucked up dope nose of yours since you was a small mongoloid child!”

I needed to get the hell out of town anyway so…I said what the fuck…why not?

“Wait ‘til you see the shit this bitch in Vallejo’s got Cous! She owes me big time ‘cause I hooked her up with this fine ass brother. I’d’ve fucked him myself but he don’t wanta use condoms! I already got two babies! Fuck that shit ya know cous? I ain’t tryin’ to fuck no nigga without condoms!”

She somehow managed, while balancing the mess of plastic, tiny screws and what seemed like miles of coiled analogue tape to work open the plastic bag of dope and break off a small piece of it.

“God Damn! Look at the size of that shit!” My lips cracked and bled when I blurted it out.

The fat chick had loaded us up good with a chunk of shit twice the size of a golf ball. It looked like some dirty shit though. From where I sat, it looked to be concocted of equal parts talc, comet cleanser, laxatives and those stinky pink cakes people wire to the bowls of their toilets.

Tracey looked at me with the single most shit eating grin I’d ever seen. And then, still somehow balancing everything in her lap, she slyly put her finger in her mouth, reached over and stuck it in my ear, cackling.

We kept driving north for the next hour or so. The clouds ahead seemed to be running away from us or maybe, I couldn’t tell, in some backward way, we were running away from the clouds. They rolled on ahead in great gray clumps eventually fading completely into the black sky. The moon hung low and opaque, reflecting lopsided in the corner of the dirty windshield. In the distance you could already hear fireworks and maybe some shotguns. I remember being a kid, wondering where I would be in the year 2000. I turned to Tracey.

“Ever wonder where you’d be…on New Year’s Eve…1999?”

She keyed a quick bump of shit, “never thought about it.”

Holding the key under my nose, “never had any…romantic notions?”

“Romantic…as in did I think I’d be in gay Paris or fuckin’ New York City or some shit like that?”

I felt the shit slowly dripping into my throat, “yeah…I guess that’s what I mean.”

“You’re such a faggot! Sucking up another quick one, “and you’re making me horny so cut it out!” Tracey suddenly smiled.

I had to ask her, “Hey Trace! This shit do that to you too”

“Only on the comedown. Let’s change the subject. I ain’t tryin’ to fuck my own gay ass cousin.”

Tracey took another bump.

Looking at the mess on the floor, “you said you were gonna fix my tape. You broke my shit now fix it bitch!”

“I don’t wanta hear that homo music anyway.”

Rolling down my window, “why you always singing along with it then?” Doing my best Rickie Lee Jones, “We belong together…”

I could feel a slight mist smarting off my left arm as I held it out the window. Tracey started fiddling with the tape again.

“You miss the boys?”

She didn’t so much as look up when I asked it. She just kept twirling the tape around her finger staring straight ahead.

I knew I’d said the wrong thing. I tried to back peddle. “That Michael’s gonna be one serious lady killer.”

Then she smiled. “I got some pretty babies don’t I?”

She reached over into my shoe box full of unlabeled tapes and grabbed one. She put one in the player and turned it up. It was someone playing a saxophone or a trumpet, I could never tell the difference. An ex of mine had made it for me years before. “Now this shit makes me horny,” she said as she turned her head upward and looked toward the moon.

The rear view mirror suddenly lit up, and without turning, I knew it had to be midnight. Behind us, suddenly the night sky was as bright as day. Somewhere, the fireworks transformed the past into tomorrow and shit like love and hope made it all worthwhile. But it was all behind us. Tracey just kept staring up at the moon and I kept driving.

We were four, maybe five hours out of the city when Tracey started screaming for me to turn off. We rounded the ramp, slowing onto the gravel roadside, which lead to a stop sign shot up with bullet holes. It was dead quiet. Everything was still. The sky had gone powder gray and smelled of sulfur.

“Shit! Did you see that?” Tracey’s head darted around left to right. Her eyes were wide and electric. “Turn here! Turn here!”

I’d heard this sound in her voice before. When we got to the next street I’d barely stopped the truck when Tracey sprang out of the cab leaving her door open wide. I looked up and in the distance saw Tracey bounding over a chain-link fence. I’d never seen her move that way in my life. I pulled the truck to the curb and turned off the engine. I looked up and Tracey was now nearly completely out of sight. All I could see was the back of her white fringe jacket quaver in the distance. Then I looked up and saw the sign. “Vista Memorial Cemetery.”

I’d seen Tracey tweak big time before. Shit! I’d seen her carry on complete conversations with doorknobs and bowls of noodles! But my God, you should have seen her run! I always made fun of her when she tried to run because she had huge tits and to see them in that sort of motion was indeed a sight to behold.

Trying to make out some of the grave markers by the moonlight, I finally hopped the fence myself to get a closer look and to go get Tracey. The oldest marker I saw was 1893. I’d never seen more plastic flowers in my life.

I yelled out for Tracey, “plastic flowers are some tacky shit dontcha think?” My voice fell flat against the tombstones then somehow ricocheted back to me.

Then I heard it in the distance. I wasn’t sure at first, but after I managed to focus my hearing to the quiet, I made it out. Tracey was making this weird gurgling sound and whispering something that sounded like, “blue…blue…blue...”

As I got closer to her I could hear the words echoing from one grave to the next. Then the words became louder. It went from a whisper to a hiss to a full-on scream. “Blue! Blue! Blue!”

“Blue? What the fuck are you talking about? What blue Tracey?” I sat down beside her on a patch of hard dirt.

“Dontcha see?” She started pulling the plastic flowers out of their metal vases and burying them flower ends first into the rigid soil.

“Blue bunnies. Blue, blue bunnies.”

“Girl! You be tweakin’ big time!” I slowly ran my hand across the tops of the sharp wires sticking up from the ground.

“No.” She whispered. “Blue, blue bunnies always love me. I always love blue bunnies too.”

Then I knew for sure she was tweakin’. This was nothing. Once I was doing shit with a friend and we’d been up a couple days and he tried to eat a houseplant in the middle of the night. Once, Tracey actually made a pass at me, and I told her if she didn’t cut it out that I was gonna puke on her.

“They’re pretty, but they’re sort of scary too. Dontcha think?” Rising up from the ground she dusted herself off.

“I don’t see shit girl! Now come on! We gots to go!”

No sooner had I said this, Tracey jumped up, held her hands out for me and helped me up off the mound of dirt. As we walked back to the truck she was suddenly very quiet. Then, when we both got back into the cab she looked at me and said, “fuckin’ plastic flowers! That’s some tacky shit dontcha think?”

The plan was that we wanted to go visit my brother Beau and his family up in Olympia then eventually get up to Canada and check out this giant English rose garden I’d always heard about. Well, if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then a speed freaks heart lies bleeding curbside, and if the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, given the chance, a tweaker will want to measure every square inch of it.

By the time Tracey finally got her shit together and we pulled out of the cemetery she got real quiet on me. She didn’t say anything for at least an hour. I watched the freeway signs and billboards long enough until finally I got pissed and couldn’t stand the silence.

“Well…for fuck’s sake Tracey, why dontcha just fuckin’ call them!”

Tracey looked up at me. She remained silent. Then, huffing and sucking in her cheeks, she rolled down her window and held her head outside.

After a while, she pulled her head back in, her hair whipping her face, “It’s not that easy asshole!” She rolled the window back up and fumbled for the bag of shit and keyed up another bump. “You just don’t understand!”

We drove on a few more miles in silence. “You gonna fix my tape?”

Then she smiled and started twirling the tape again.

“You know,” I told her, “I heard Rickie Lee Jones lives in Olympia.” I watched her as she fitted the screws into the tiny holes of the tape without saying a single word. For a second, I thought she was crying. But then I remembered Tracey, according to Tracey, never cries, ever! The last time I saw her cry was when she was around four. My brothers and I tricked her into taking a big whiff of orange Kool-Aid powder and it got all up in her nose and burned her. When she cried, bright orange tears came out.

First time I ever went to Portland I saw this kid overdose in a pizza joint right across the street from this gay bar. The e.m.t.’s moved real slow. It’s like they weren’t even trying to help the guy. Junkie asshole! The guy's arms were abscessed and looked like ground beef. I had to leave the shit hole before I puked everywhere. I remember somehow finishing my slice and getting a blow job at the bar almost immediately afterward.

Tracey was going on and on. She wouldn’t shut up. Half hour before we even hit city limits, she said she had a plan. She said she had to get laid. Truth be told, after being up on that shit for a few days, it does the same thing to me. We parked the truck and headed for this giant bookstore. First time I came to Portland I got out the front door of the place with two hundred bucks worth of books and then sold them to another store down the block for a third as much.

“Okay, this is what we do.” Tracey started brushing her hair while simultaneously unwrapping a piece of Juicy Fruit. I’d seen this look in her eyes before too. “I’m gonna go check out a couple of places and I will meet you right here in front of this bookstore in exactly two hours.” She started popping the gum real loud, which she knew, drove me fucking crazy. It was at that moment that I knew I was pretty much ready for a break from cousin Tracey.

“What do you mean? Where’re you going?” Just as I said this, this really cute tall guy in an army shirt walked by with curly red hair. Tracey whistled and the guy turned around with a smile.

Pulling her hair into a ponytail, “ah come on cous! Who’re you tryin’ to fool? She started rubbing her front teeth with her finger like she was brushing them. “I promise! I’ll be back in exactly two hours! Be here in front of the store and we can figure out what we’re gonna do next.” And with that, Tracey turned, walked away and disappeared around the corner.

I walked around the bookstore for half an hour or so and got out with a small leather bound journal and a paperback of Breakfast at Tiffanie's. I figured I’d give them to Tracey to occupy her a little once we were back on the road. I looked across the street and saw the same shitty pizza place with the dead junkie. I thought about getting a slice, but then I remembered how it always felt to eat when you’re on the shit. It’s like eating fucking glass…like being a snake and having a god damned rat stuck inside of you, slowly making its way through you. Instead I walked across the street and into the bar.

It was some sort of leather bar. The place was dark as shit and I could hardly see in front of myself. Eventually my eyes got used to the lack of light and I could see they had porn playing on TV. Monitors all over the bar. I ordered a beer and looked around for the redhead guy.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about Tracey. There was no telling where she was or what the fuck she was getting herself into. I went into the bathroom and did a couple bumps of shit and was feeling a lot better. When I came out I saw the redhead guy. He was at the bar. He looked my direction, gave me a nod, sat his beer bottle down and left.

I gulped down the rest of my beer and followed. When I came out, a fine mist of cold air hit me in the face as I looked around for the guy. But he was nowhere to be found. I looked both directions and across the street and he was gone. I looked further down the street and saw an adult bookstore. I figured maybe he went that way and besides, in the very least, I could jack to some porn or whatever. By the time I made my way to the back video stall area I saw that it was one of those hi-tech jack joints, the kind with touch screen monitors and mostly straight porn. All Las Vegas and shit! Of course by then it was too late. I’d already paid the required three bucks for tokens to the steroid Samoan at the front cash register. That shit pissed me the fuck off! I mean, for a fag, I considered myself pretty unique in that I could jack to just about any kind of porn. As far as straight porn goes, I love watching white chicks suck big black dicks. That shit can be really hot, especially if you’re on the shit and coming down hard. But I mean this place was wall-to-wall pussy! I got so fucking pissed off I couldn’t get wood so I opened the door to the stall and slammed it behind me. The Samoan shot me a look, and just then, I saw the redhead walk out the front door.

When I got outside, the guy was leaning up against the front of the store smoking a cigarette. The wind really started whipping up so I couldn’t hear very well. I asked him for a light and we both immediately went into some dumb, clumsy, monosyllabic gay conversation. He said he lived a block away and asked me if I wanted to come over for a drink. By then, at least an hour had gone by. I knew I had to be in front of the bookstore soon enough, but I figured…one drink.

Sure enough, the guy lived less than a block away. Literally two doors down from the bookstore, so I figured I could make it work. I thought, a drink and maybe...some head. When he opened the door to his place the smell was undeniable. I thought I was going to vomit right there and then. It smelled like some kind of rotten meat. It was not a pleasant smell to say the least. And to make matters worse, as if rancid and rotting animal flesh isn’t enough to invert anyone’s stomach, his walls were plastered floor to ceiling with pictures of the fucking Muppets! That’s right; Miss Piggie, Animal, The Swedish Chef… Fozzie the fucking bear! They were all there! Oh and of course that fucking frog! He was absolutely fucking everywhere! Curtains, sheets, dishes! His bathroom door was wide open and I could see his toilet bowl was covered with some sort of hand knitted bright green fuzzy thing. All of a sudden the guy’s phone rings and…you guessed it! Kermit the god damned Frog telephone! And then, just to, you know, top it all off, the Muppets, the stench of rotting pork or whatever, human flesh? Why I hadn’t noticed it before, I don’t know, maybe the wind, I could barely hear outside, but suddenly I noticed, the guy’s voice was frighteningly…horrifyingly low. I’m talking serial killer slow-mo, Lerch low! Low!

He hung up the phone and said, “sorry about that.”

“Sorry about that? Are you fucking kidding me? Sorry about that? Your apartment looks like Jim Fucking Henson shit all over it and stinks like a god damned slaughter house!”

Then the guy reached for a bottle of Jim Beam and handed it to me. I took a long hard pull and then turned toward the door.

“Please don’t go.” The guy sat down on the edge of his couch, with hot pink satin Miss Piggy throw pillows.

I looked at the guy. He was extremely cute, but something was most definitely not right about him.

“I’m just subletting he said.” his eyes lowering to the ground. “None of this shit’s mine.”

Handing him the bottle, “well, do you uh…do you mind if we open up a window?”

“They’re painted shut.” He says, taking a short quick pull.

As nasty as the place was, the guy was still, absolutely cute as shit! And sad, cute and sad. Total turn on. To me, throw in the curly red hair, plug my nose and I was nearly in love! And I wanted to fuck him! God damn did I ever want to fuck him! So I yanked the bottle out of his hands, sat down next to him, took another drink and we went at it. I had his arms up over his head, pinning his wrists to the bed, staring at the bright red hair in his pits when suddenly I noticed on his wristwatch the time. I had exactly thirty minutes to get my nut, get the fuck out of The Muppet Movie and meet Tracey. We were really going at it, and this guy was a good kisser…a real good kisser! When all of a sudden the guy says to me, in that voice, in that mother fucking Jeffrey Dalmer, John fucking Wayne Gacey voice, “fist me?”

And then slowly, descending on me like the dawn of fucking reason, I started looking around again. The Muppets, the god damned Muppets! They were fucking everywhere! Any second, I half expected that god damned Big Bird to swoop down from the ceiling with a giant orange cock singing the alphabet song to try and fuck me in the ass! And no one fucks this faggot! Certainly no god damned yellow Muppet! Somehow, it all suddenly started adding up into some twisted fuck, sexual algebra. The stink to high heaven, the voice, the phone, the window, the fuzzy green toilet! And now this fucker wants me to fist fuck him? I was out the front door before the bottle hit the floor, spun, and rolled beneath his coffee table, littered with Ernie and Burt coloring books.

I thought I was going to vomit before I could get out of his building. I held my breath down four flights of stairs until I got outside.

Just as I arrived in front of the bookstore, I looked up the street, and low and behold, sure enough, here she came. But of course, she was not alone. Of course! Tracey always had a thing for black guys. Her husband was black, as were her two very handsome sons. “Mixed!” She’d say. As they got closer, I saw a huge smile on Tracey’s face. “Slut.” I said to myself, sniffing the air.

I have to admit the guy was pretty damn good looking. He had those stupid jerry curls that I fucking hate though, otherwise, pretty damn hot! He was tall, had a nice cleft chin and big dark brown eyes.

“This is Tyrell,” Tracey had her arm around his waist and stroked his stomach as she said this. As if I wasn’t horny enough. Then, just to be a bitch or…I don’t know, throw me a bone, she lifted up the bottom of his white wife-beater and started playing with his happy trail right there in front of me. I caught the guy catching me staring at the action and he just looked at me, without so much as a flinch.

Then Tracey says to the guy, “I gotta go talk to my cousin for a quick second. I’ll…we’ll be right back.”

She grabs me and pulls me into the store, leaving Tyrell out on the sidewalk. Once inside, she turns to me, “okay, what happened with the redhead?”

I look outside and watch Tyrell light up a cigarette. “Fuck the redhead! Who the shit is Tyrell? He is super foin girl!”

Tracey adjusts her bra strap and giggles, “I know ain’t he though?” Then Tracey gets this frazzled look in her eyes, reaches out and puts both her hands on my shoulders, and says, “one more hour! That’s all I need is one more hour!”

What could I say to that? I looked back out at Tyrell who was now sitting on a fire hydrant looking right back at me, thinking to myself, “shit! Give ME one more hour with that fine ass brother…shit!”

“Fine! All right! But be back here in one hour!” She turned to go but I grabbed her by her wrist, “Tracey! One fucking hour! No more!”

Tracey leans in and kisses me on the cheek and says, “okay! One hour! No more! I promise!” Before the door closes behind her and without looking back she yells, “By cous! I love you! I’ll be back!”

I walk around the store for a while and before long notice some dumb ass security guy in a Sea hawks jacket trailing me. I ask for the bathroom key and quickly go do a couple lines in the toilet stall. When I come out, I notice the security dude is now gone. Now I’m officially bored! Nothing worse than being horny as shit and waiting around for someone else to get their fuck on! Then I thought, “what the hell are they gonna do in one hour? Where the fuck are they gonna go?” Then I remembered it was Tracey and I thought, “what the hell are they NOT gonna do?”

It was getting pretty close to the hour so I decided to go out front to wait for her. But then, just as I was leaving, bending over to pick up a couple of the local rags, I looked up and there he was. It was the redhead. I didn’t know what to do. He stopped in the doorway and just stood there, looking right at me. I tried to not look at him, but peripherally I could tell he was staring me down, so I turned around and went back into the store. I headed toward the far end of the large building, toward the magazine section, and as I turned around, I saw that the guy was now following me. And then, I looked up and saw that the stupid ass security guy was following me again now too. I turned quickly into the self-help section and made my way passed fiction and then somehow back out the front door. Quickly I turned again and saw they were both still right behind me, hot on my trail. But then, just as I made it out the door, I heard someone screaming my name. I looked up, and about two blocks away, I saw Tracey running toward me. She had this insane look in her face, like some wild animal or something was chasing her. No sooner had I seen this, I turned around fast and saw the redhead lunge for me, while right behind him was the security guy who in turn lunged for the redhead. Tracey was screaming louder and I noticed people all around us now frozen in their footsteps. The security guy pulled the redhead back into the store by the collar and shouted, “not this time Kermit! Oh no! Not this time!” I saw something fall out from underneath the guy’s shirt. I looked down and saw two coloring books with Burt and Ernie on their covers.

Tracey was now only a block away. I still couldn’t tell what was going on, but I distinctly heard her yell the undeniable words, “run! Run!”

Just as she screamed I looked behind her, and in the distance I saw Tyrell. He was also running, real fast, but, not quite as fast as Tracey. Tracey’s face got more and more twisted and the unquestionable look of fear took over the closer she got. Then I realized that Tyrell was not just running, but at the same time attempting to pull up his pants and polka dot underwear.

Then I saw Tracey had something in her hands. It was some sort of black satchel.

I thought to myself, “what in the name of God have you done now Tracey?”

I looked up and wanted no part of her shit, so naturally, I ran too.

By the time we got to the truck and I put it in gear, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Tyrell still running after us, steaming mad!

Tracey was laughing hysterically.

“What the fuck’s so funny Tracey?” Tracey opened the black satchel and revealed what appeared to be a virtual pharmacy of drugs and accompanying paraphernalia.

“Fuck Tracey! You stole the guy’s shit?” Looking closer in the bag, “you crazy fucking bitch!” I looked in the mirror again, pressed harder on the accelerator, looked again, asTyrell was now quickly disappearing into nothingness.

“You wanta fucking get us killed you stupid fucking lunatic?”

Rummaging through the bag, Tracey’s eyes got bigger and bigger. “Ah don’t be such a faggot!”

“Fuck you Tracey!

By the time we got back onto the I-5 it was pouring. The windshield wipers were barely working and I was struggling to see through the storm. I didn’t say a single word to her for the next two hours.

Finally, after doing key bump after key bump in complete silence, Tracey started fucking with the tape again. I couldn’t help but want to laugh at her. The way she balanced the reels of tape and all the rest was pretty funny. Then she started singing.

“Chuck E.’s in love…Chuck E’s in…”

She had the worst singing voice on the planet, and hearing her sing made me think I could never really be angry at her, ”that song’s not on that tape stupid!”

Mustering up a fake scowl, “I didn’t say it was idiot!”

She resumed, “Don’t you know…Chuck E’s in…” Then once again, Tracey’s eyes got real wide as she dropped the tape into her lap, the tiny coil of brown tape resting precariously on the edge of her knee without her even knowing, “hey wait a minute! What if ole Rickie Lee still lives in Olympia? Oh my god! That ole hippie bitch could still be croonin’ somewhere out on The Sound! We just have to find her!”

After she said this, Tracey got this wicked sly smile on her face and she jumped up in her seat, spilling everything onto the floorboards once again, “oh my God! We should try to find her! Let’s find out where she lives and go see her!”

I kept my eyes on the road, “chop the shit you fucking loon!”

“No! I’m totally serious! We can find out where she lives and then…”

“And then…and then what Tracey? We’re gonna show up, two skank ass tweaks lookin’ like a couple of turds and ask her to autograph my…broke ass cassette tape?” We both looked down at her feet and laughed, then Tracey once again leaned over and picked up the small pieces to the cassette tape.

After another long silence and after Tracey had finally chopped up four fat ass rails, looking out for highway pigs, she rolled a fiver. Balancing the cassette holder, the only one I still owned, she made like a locomotive, sucked up the tracks and steadied onward.

I could see Tracey was chomping at the bit. Her curiosity was killing her, “alright Tracey! Open the shit up! Let’s get a better look! Probably ain’t nothing in it but relaxer and fucking Kools!”

“Ah! You didn’t like his curls? Fumbling with the clasp, “I know I hate that shit too! That’s some faggoty ass shit! Ooh! Goddamn! That nigga could kiss though”

Tracey’s hands were as jittery as mine, but I kept mine locked to the steering wheel so you couldn’t really tell. I looked down at Tracey’s feet and they were shaking as well, a bit of the cassette tape clinging to the bottom of her bare foot. Her face was all Christmas morning as she finally got the thing open. Tracey lifted her head up from the case, looked at me, and we both broke out in fits of laughter. I almost had to pull over I was laughing so hard. Her stupid little jewel heist had paid off in more ways than one. It would have been a real Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid moment it weren’t for one small thing. In the case were the following items; approximately five grams of tweak, give or take an ounce or so of pot, half a gram of heroin, some pills, downers, uppers, some fucked up rigging, and…half a package of Hebrew national hot dogs. Tracy and I were bent over laughing for miles. The shades had been lifted from our hooded eyes. Merry Christmas.

“Hot, Tracey! You’re boyfriend’s totally hot! I love the brothas with the jerry curls and the good dope…who eat kosher only wieners!”

Suddenly stifled and completely quiet, Tracey stuck her finger into the dope and tapped out a finger on her tongue, “oh yeah! He was hot!” A jagged smiled smeared across her face, “Hey! Now tell me, what happened with “Red” again?”

This shut me up pretty fast as I reached over and closed the bag back up, “fuck you! I don’t wanta talk about it!”

Olympia was cold. It was nicked up and scarred. If the sun ever came, I’m sure it reserved its stingy rays for nicer parts of town, wherever that might have been. People moved in a slow-mo knuckle-dragging crawl. Their faces never left the concrete or asphalt. There really was no point in looking up when nothing but bitter longing and remorse lingered high in the sky, unremittingly falling like precipitation on bent, pock marked faces and corrugated steel. By the time we rolled into town, we were as incongruent as the sun itself. We were an electric buzz barreling through the streets, windows rolled down, music blaring, the rain wet on our arms, our hair and faces. Seemed like the only thing in the truck we cared about keeping dry was the dope.

I hadn’t seen my youngest brother Beau in probably four or five years. He moved his family to Olympia to try and get away from the dope in California. Washington State, not the best place for refuge. He had two kids, girls, and a really sweet wife, Dee Dee. He was a total rocker dude and he’d always joked when we were kids that if he ever had kids of his own he would give them names like Lucifer or Aleister or Satan. Luckily and thankfully, love does have a fine way of keeping us in check, so when his first daughter was born, instead of Hester Prine or Elvira, he named her Leah, after the Roy Orbison song, and the second, not so fortunate, he named Amity…as in…The Amityville Horror.

He made his living as a tattoo artist and managed, after working out of his house for a couple years, to even open up a shop. He’d promised me that if I ever got up to Olympia, he’d do my first tattoo, free of charge. How I’d managed to live this long without a single dot of ink in my skin I could not figure. Everyone else in my family had them. If you lined up all my brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles side by side, besides looking like an episode of America’s Most Wanted, they’d look like a graffitied wall or one of those painted trains you see racing through cities like New York or Chicago.

Just outside of Olympia, I called him to let him know that we were on our way. When he heard the word “we” he hesitated and then asked who the fuck “we” was. When I said Tracey’s name, Beau suddenly got dead quiet. Finally, “I don’t want that freaky bitch around my kids!” By the time I got him calmed down and promised that there wouldn’t be any trouble and I’d keep my eye on Tracey, I could tell Beau was already sorry he’d suggested us coming up in the first place. I’d feared his reaction to the Tracey news, so I kept the door to the phone booth shut. My cigarette was starting to smoke me out so I opened the door to clear the air. I saw Tracey in my truck, her feet lifted onto the dashboard, painting her toenails. I could tell she was hanging on my every word. I was pretty much the only person in my entire family left who even got along with Tracey. Her own parents could hardly stand her, a real slap in the face to Tracey since they themselves had been such drugged out hippies back in the day. When she was pregnant with her youngest, her husband Michael busted her doing dope for the final time and sent her packing back to her parent’s house. Then he split with their three year-old to stay with his own folks. When the new baby was born, it patched things up with them for a little while. Tracey cleaned up for about three months, until once again she started fucking off with some of her old homies and got back on the shit. When I got back into the truck, Tracey just sneered at me and said, “yeah, we’ll see how holy that fuck is when he sees the shit we got!”

By the time we got to Beau’s place, Tracey and I had both been up for nearly a week, and we showed every second of it. I felt like shit, and I swore something was crawling around in my throat. It felt like some sort of barbed bug or demon spider. We were both finally coming down hard and no amount of dope could prolong the inevitable now. Sleep was finally crashing in on us hard, and the moment we arrived, even though it was only around two in the afternoon, Beau handed us both blankets, diverting his eyes from both of us, and pointed in the direction of a back room of his trailer house. As we walked down the hallway, Tracey pointed at a drawing Beau had done and had had framed and started laughing. I slapped the back of her head and told her to stop acting like a cunt.

When I finally woke up, nearly two whole days later, my niece Amity was standing above me with a coloring book saying, “now will you color with me?” Then I totally freaked out and for a second, seeing the coloring book, thought I was back in Portland. Envisioning Burt and Ernie, and half expecting the redheaded fisting freak and Big Bird to attack again…but…but I was safe, it was only Strawberry Shortcake and a four year-old. Eventually, when I finally made my way out of the room, feeling like a human-shaped garbage bag full of shit, I heard glass break, and as I came into the living room, my brother Beau had Tracey pinned to the floor and was not letting her up. She was cursing him and they were both laughing like a couple of shit-assed kids. Both their faces were blood red and Beau was drooping a long rope of spit from his mouth over Tracey’s face, threatening to let it fall on her if she didn’t apologize to him for being born. I saw a half empty bottle of bourbon on the kitchen table and a pile of ash the size of Ranier.

He lowered his face closer to hers, “now repeat after me, my mommy and daddy are shit pig hippies who raised me in a garbage can and fed me worms and dirty needles!”

Her eyes bugging wide, tiny veins popping up on her forhead, “yeah right homo! This ain’t exactly the Taj Mahal turd fuck!”

Tracey could not resist fucking with him. I think Beau sort of liked fucking with Tracey too. They would go at it whenever there was booze, tequila in particular, and they’d wind up gouging skin and pulling hair like a couple of wild cats. It always went the same way, doing shots of Cuervo and starting with the usual pleasantries. Calling each other names, then spitting at each other, and finally culminating into making fun of each other’s kids. This never went over well with either and would usually lead to some serious fighting. Beau once knocked her out cold when she tried to bust a shovel over his head. Thank God for bourbon. Tequila and family just don’t mix.

Then, after we’d been there for about a week, she started in with the dope, trying to get Beau to do a line. When she started in on that, I could see Beau was pretty much coming to the end of the line with us both and that our days were numbered. As far as dope was concerned, Beau had kicked it more than once and it had been years since he touched it.

On the day Beau had scheduled me to do the tattoo, he called me from his shop. He told me that he had a surprise and that he’d be bringing it home that night after work. Dee Dee and the kids had gone out to see a movie around four. Sure enough, at around six, Beau came through with his promise and brought home the surprise.

His name was Dusty. He was Beau’s’s new guy at the shop. When they came through the side entrance through the kitchen, I was chopping lines while Tracey was taking her third shower of the day. He was six feet five inches tall, covered in freckles and had shoulder length hair the color of straw. I nearly blew the dope off the mirror. My mouth hung open like a labrador’s.

Beau had this smirk on his face, “hey Dusty, this is my older brother. He’s a big tweaker and loves tall red headed Howdy Doody lookin’ mother fuckers like yourself”

Just as he said this, Dusty held out his long freckled arm covered in tiny pink tattooed hearts to shake my hand, and suddenly everything went all misty and all I heard was… “The look of love, is in your eyes…a look your smile can’t disguise…the look of lo…”

Then we were running through a field of…daisies and everything had this sort of smoky haze with the smell of lilacs…and all I heard was “the look of love is in your…” Suddenly everything was…Dusty! And then…

And then, needle scratching virgin vinyl, Tracey came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her fat ass, singing some stupid Vanity 6…Apollonia bullshit! She walked right up to Dusty and with the voice of an Arkansas hog caller blurted out, “well Howdy Doody Pardner! Ain’t you a tall drink of sasparilla!”

Beau looked at Tracey and then turned to Dusty, “this is my cousin Tracey, she’s a tweaker…and a whore.”

I could see from the sudden eager look in his eyes that Dusty was straighter than Sunday morning. Tracey leaned over me, her tits angling into my face so far out you could see them in fucking Toledo, grabbed the fiver and as usual, did the fattest line on the mirror.

“Dope whore!” I said as I pushed her tits out of my face and did the other line. Then whispering to her, “he’s mine bitch back off!”

Whispering back, “yeah, and my pussy’s tight!”

Not to be outdone, “you still have a pussy?”

Then out loud, adjusting her towel and smiling at Dusty, “we’ll find out tonight!”

Dusty, without so much as a blink, threw his backpack onto the table, grabbed a chair and turning it around, sat down right next to me. Leaning in closer with a new coolness in his eyes, “what says you lay a little track down for me brother?”

He was sitting so close I could smell him. A sort of acrid sweet smell combined with an even sweeter smell coming off of his hair, which he’d obviously just washed. I could feel my spine bending as I suddenly slumped in my chair.

“Yeah!” Tracey yelled out from across the room, opening a fresh box of red vines, “make like a tortured Chinaman and lay down some more tracks for us…brother!”

Use of the word “brother,” was undeniably, one thousand per cent uber-straight talk for, “you catch that Niner’s game last night?” or “wow! I’d really like to cum on your tits!” And that bitch Tracey knew it.

Beau was working his way back through the side kitchen door again, this time with a heavy car battery. They used it to power the tattoo gun. Battery acid and tall freckled faced boys, does it get any better?

Setting the heavy battery right onto the kitchen table, which I found odd since it’s where his girls ate their breakfasts every morning, Beau held out a list of things he wanted me and Tracey to go get at the store. He threw the list at Tracey and scowled at her, “see if you can fuck this one up! Egghead!” I looked at Tracey, and suddenly, immediately her smile bent. She turned away from the beaming eyes of Dusty and slowly twisted her neck, reptilian and puffed up, towards Beau. Tracey hated when people called her this. A few years back, she and Beau got into it, swilling tequila again of course, when Beau called her egghead and suddenly, through a fit of wild banshee screams, she started recounting all the years of endless familial torture he and I had exacted on her as a small child. When she was around three, we used to love putting pillowcases over her head, then spin her around really fast and beat her senseless with pillows. We used to tell her she had a muffin head and it got stuck in her mama’s twat. She hated that name! Egghead! You could call Tracey anything from cunt to coon fucker, but calling her egghead was a sure fire way to really get her panties up in a wad and tantamount to war, and we all knew it.

But something was up with Beau. I could tell something was wrong and what he really needed was a good stiff drink. Something was definitely wrong. Then, I knew for sure, undoubtedly, something was not right when as I got up to go pour him a whiskey, he slid into the chair where I was, picked up the bag of tweak, poured out enough for at least three fat ones and started chopping. Everyone froze.

Then Tracey, with a ratty ass smile, wrung her hands together and started laughing, “now that’s what I’m talkin’ about cous! You’re not a big ole sloppy pussy after all! I guess ole Dee Dee ain’t got you too hitched to her post!”

Beau looked up at Tracey and then shot a look back at me like Beelzebub himself, “would you just get her the fuck out of here…for a little while, before I slice her god damned throat? And go get the shit we need!” Continuing chopping, he didn’t so much as look up, “And don’t fuck up Tracey! Moron!”

A crowbar could not have removed the smile from Tracey’s face. She just kept wringing her hands together. Then she walked over to a pile of clothes on the floor, dropped her towel right there in front of everyone and slipped into her jeans skirt. Still wringing her hands together, she walked over to Beau, leaned over his shoulder and said, “know what I’m gonna do cous? I’m gonna go out right now, and I’m gonna buy you the biggest god damned bottle of tequila I can find! Then we’re gonna come back and…” now draping her cold arms around both his and Dusty’s shoulders and playing with Dusty’s hair, “…and then you, and me, all of us, even your filthy sodomite brother…we’re gonna line us all up some more candy flavored midnight and we’re gonna go a workin’ on the chain gang!” She grabbed me, whiskey bottle still in my hands, stone cold frozen in my tracks, grabbed her purse and pushed me out the door singing, “Oh dontcha know…that’s the sound of the men working on the chain…gang! Oh dontcha know that’s the sound of the men working on the…gang bang.”

“Slut!” I muttered as I pushed her out the door.

It took us nearly an hour and a half at the grocery store because Tracey was flirting with some pre-pubescent bagboy, and that was before we even got into the store. Also, she traded some cash with some toothless woman who was about the size of a small poplar branch in exchange for twice the amount in food stamps.

“Hey man, fuck it! We got twice the amount now!”

I just looked at her. I knew if I said a word I would wind up throttling her.

Running up from behind me she pulled my pants up into my crotch. “Hey! Don’t get all pissy with me bitch! I’m just tryin’ to save on the dough is all. We can go buy some…I don’t know…party food…or some shit!” And plus, now that toothless old goat can take her A.I.D’sy ass and get high!”

We could hear the music even before we rounded the corner of his block. We couldn’t pull into the driveway because there were already two cars taking up the space and a big ugly baby shit yellow van at the front curb. Beau had the Nazareth turned up, and I mean he had it turned up real loud. Then I smelled pot. He always was a total dirt head rocker. Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Maiden, Led Zep. When we entered the trailer, with four giant grocery bags full of shit no one was going to eat, Beau’s pal Dusty was rolling up on two lines at once, with two dollars bills in both nostrils.

When he lifted his head from the table, his big green eyes bugging wide, he motioned toward the back room. “He’s back there with Ingwe, Thor and Jesus.” Then he started giggling, which if it weren’t for the sudden and drastic turn of events and the loud as shit music, would have been completely hot. His red hair was sticking to his face and you could tell he’d been running or something. “Yeah man, they’re all in the back. They’re having a weight lifting challenge. So far I’m in the lead at 235.” You’d never have believed it to see him. He was one tall and gangly kid. I sat the bags down and worked my way to the back. “Hey, tell Beau I’m mixing my famous Tequila Schnauzers!”

Leaving me to put all the shit away, Tracey was well ahead of me, sniffing out the testosterone in the back room. When I came in, Beau was just finishing. He’d pressed 260, had his shirt off, and was strutting like a real cock in the barnyard. Tracey, true to form, was already making a fool of herself, trying to lift 300.

Rubbing her hands together, “You guys are a bunch of pussies! Come on now! Someone spot me!”

The guy called Jesus laughed and told her, “it’s a bench press mama, you don’t need a spotter.”

They all started laughing at her, which only egged her on more. Beau looked at me sort of sideways passing by me, put his shirt back on and headed back toward the kitchen.

I called after him and asked what was going on, but he just brushed me off and asked me if I was ready to start working on my tattoo.

I have zero tolerance for pain, always have, so Dusty busted out a full bottle of Vikes and I downed three of them. By then, Beau had the whole place fitted out for all out warfare/party central. With Def Leopard blasting in the background, we had to yell at each other from across the room to be heard. On the floor right next to me were three old metal cherry pickers buckets full of ice and beer. On the table sat two bottles of Jim Beam, what looked like a gallon bottle of rotgut vodka, and a half empty chilled bottle of chardonnay that looked like it had been in a refrigerator for at least a month. Strangely absent, and perhaps for the best, was the tequila. I closed my eyes and said some sort of prayer.

Beau had started an impromptu game of stud with the three visitors, all of whom you could clearly see were booming out of their gourds on some magical shit not yet publicly disclosed. There was Ingwe, the German guy who looked to be around sixty but I’m told was only twenty-five. His left eye was much smaller than the right and gave him the appearance of a crotchety old pirate perpetually looking through a telescope. He smelled like motor oil. Thor was neither Nordic nor godly. He stood around 5 feet 2 and was balding. The reason they called him Thor was because he always carried around a small Ball Pein hammer in his hip pocket. Every now and then I caught him either checking me out or glaring disdainfully. Finally there was Jesus. He was right out of the lettuce fields. He was stocky and had hands the size of bowling balls. He had this odd little tweaky tic. Every time someone said, “God Damn,” he would put his huge shiny hands to his face and violently smack his folded arms into his rib cage with this deranged bird flapping motion and very loudly cough out the word, “love.” They would all mock him and get into this cycle of saying, “God Damn” each time he’d say, “love,” and so on.

Dusty was firing up the ole tattoo battery. It was beginning to resemble more medieval torture accessory than 20th century art apparatus. I was half expecting Dusty to break out some sort of foot pumping contraption or leaches!

Tracey apparently was not getting enough attention from the boys so she decided to one by one steal them from the poker game and abscond with them, taking them into the back bathroom. Whatever the hell she was doing, it didn’t work, because they all returned quick enough to the card table. Then I realized, looking at the giant pot on the table, that at that moment, poker trumped pussy in spades.

The vikes were starting to kick in so I thought I’d help them along with a few beers.

Tracey got tired of vying for everyone’s attention so she stormed off into the bathroom and took yet another shower.

Dusty and I started to figure out exactly what it was I wanted for the tattoo. I was thinking some sort of cowgirl on a bucking bronco, maybe with a lasso. He asked me, “why a cowgirl?” As sweet as it was hearing it from this stunning angel dipped in tattoo ink, somehow I didn’t have an answer. For some reason, I couldn’t see myself with a cowboy tattooed on my arm, on a horse or otherwise. He kept asking, “Are you sure? Are you sure?” Call it latent, repressed, self-hating homo bullshit, but for some unexplainable reason, I kept insisting on a cowgirl. So he got to work on some sketches. Just then, Beau busted out of the game and walked over to where we were. They were both consulting on the sketches, coming up with different ideas. By then I was really feeling the dope. Beau wound up drawing the horse and Dusty drew the cowgirl. Then, brotherly love… wishful thinking? Beau had a brainstorm. He grabbed the sketchbook from Dusty, erased the girl’s gingham shirt tied in a knot revealing her belly button, and drew on a big set of titties.

By this time I was sort of going in and out of the picture. I liked the idea of a naked cowgirl, but not with boobs the size of Argentina! “Okay, you guys, taking the sketchbook from Beau, “she can show a little cleavage but let’s not have full on milk jugs alright? I mean, after all, it is my tattoo.”

Beau took the sketchbook from me, turning quickly to Dusty and yells at him, “Don’t you freakin’ get it? Dude! My brother is a pole smoker if you haven’t figured it out yet! A queer? A queen? A HOMOSEXUAL?”

Yanking the sketchbook away from him, getting a little dizzy, I say, “so what you’re saying is that I can’t have a tittie tattoo if I want one? Is that it? Who are you calling a queen bitch? Hey! I appreciate…” Everything is getting very blurry now. “…breasts…as much as the next…”

Then Beau grabs the sketch back again, interrupting me, “as much as the next homo?” Yeah right! I can already hear you tomorrow morning. What did you do to me? I’ve been violated! Someone call the A.C.L.U.!”

It felt like I was really about to go under, so when Dusty and Beau turned away from me, still arguing about the drawing, I grabbed a rolled bill and did an enormous line of shit. Vicaden and methamphetamine are not the best drugs in the world to mix. I was so psyched out about the potential pain and all I just went overboard. But when Dusty put the needle to my arm, suffice to say, I was feeling no pain, at all. Beau and Dusty would trade off. Beau did most of the outlines and Dusty did most of the shading. By my best estimation, it took nearly two and a half hours to do the whole thing. Then, halfway through, I looked up from my drugged induced stupor and noticed that Beau was gone. I was sitting in a chair directly in front of Dusty, bent over with my head and the rest of my upper body completely limp in Dusty’s lap. When I raised my head to see what happened to everyone, Dusty lifted the needle, put his hand on the back of my head and pressed my face back down in his lap. The erotic nature of this maneuver did not elude me completely, but I was so fucked up by then I had no other choice but to do exactly as told.

For a while there I really thought I was dreaming and lost somewhere between Olympia and Candy Land. Every time someone would say something, it had this echoed sort of slap-back effect. Ingwe, Thor and Jesus’ bodies were starting to stretch and look like the reflections in one of those carnival mirrors. Then suddenly Tracey came in the room and grabbed the sketchbook.

“God Damn!”

“Love!” Jesus grabs his face, flapping, barking.

Then Tracey again, “you call them titties?” Why dontcha just strap a couple pancakes onto her chest and pour on the syrup!”

I looked up as Dusty, tattoo gun in hand, turned to her and said, “well then why don’t you show us your tits and we’ll have something to work with!”

Tracey’s smile brightened, and not in a pretty way, more like the jagged toothed blood drenched smile of some carnivorous circus clown, “well shit Howdy Doody! Has it been that long since ya saw a nice set of honkers? God damn!”

Jesus again, “Snap, crackle…” “Love!”

Dusty, leaning real close to my face, “wow man! I’m amazed! You’re hardly bleeding at all!”

“Oh God! Please!” The mere mention of blood makes me go all daffodil and queasy, “could you not talk about bloo…”

Dusty pushes my head back down, this time stroking the back of my hair. I purr like a calico kitten.

“Well if it’s tits you want, then it’s tits you get!” Tracey started undoing her shirt, “now mind you, I’m only doing this for art’s sake, for my cousin.” Turning to the poker players who are now setting up straight like dogs in rapt attention, waiting for treats, “don’t none of you pervs get the wrong god damned…”


“…idea!” Then she yanks her shirt off and leans against the wall, tits to the wind with her head back, all dramatic like some wood carving on the front of a boat.

It was right about this time, I think, I went under completely.

Everything went gray and then completely black. Then suddenly I awoke. I was in Beau’s trailer again, I mean still, but everyone was now gone. I was sitting in the chair staring at an empty table. All the booze and dope was gone. Everything. I was alone. Then suddenly, way off in the distance, I heard…crying. It was Beau’s girls, Leah and Amity. The voices were coming from all different directions. I couldn’t tell where they were. It’s like the voices were coming toward me and running away from me all at once.

I yelled, “Leah! Amity?” Their cries became louder. Then I screamed out, “Where are you guys? I can’t see you?”

I opened my eyes and Tracey was standing right in front of me. In her hands she held an enormous sausage, a giant salami. Dangling it in front of my eyes, she said to me, “yeah you want that dontcha faggot?” Her voice, like the others, seemed to be split down the middle with this duo tone, high and low pitch. “You fucking fags just can’t get enough salami can ya?” She held it closer to my face. I could actually smell the thing. But it didn’t smell like salami at all, it smelled like…like dope. In fact, suddenly everything in the place started smelling like crank. I thought I was gonna o.d. or throw up or both. I looked up again and now Tracey was gone. I felt dead nauseous. I knew if I sat there for another second, with the stench of meth everywhere, I was going to vomit. So I got up and I took off running. When I got outside, I saw Beau and Dee Dee. They were standing next to my truck talking. I went over to them, but as I approached, I could hear that they were fighting so I fell back. I stood next to a jasmine tree and leaned into it to smell the blooms. But then, even they smelled like dope. Suddenly I started vomiting. Uncontrollably! I couldn’t hold it back any longer. When I finally caught my breath and looked up, Beau and Dee Dee were gone. I looked all around. They just somehow vanished. I went back inside, but as I entered, I looked up and saw myself back in the chair, once again with my head in Dusty’s lap.

I noticed that the cries had gone away, as did the smell. I tried to steady my breathing and I could feel drops of sweat on my forehead. My whole body felt heavy. My head was like an anvil and I could barely lift it. But when I did, somehow, I opened my eyes, and Dusty was still working away. Then, he reached down with his hand and wiped the sweat from my forehead. I realized then that it was all just some fucked up drug- induced nastiness. I went to lower my head back into his lap when suddenly I heard this strange moaning sound. It was just to my left, and…as I turned my head, I…I…could…not believe what I was seeing. Tracey, about three feet away from me, leaning against the wall, was lying on the floor with her legs spread open wide, butt ass naked and fucking herself with a giant salami. I shook my head and tried to…I don’t know what I was trying to do. I closed my eyes tightly and then opened them again. Still, Tracey…she was still there, and she still had the thing, which had to be eight inches thick, and she was…trying…desperately…still…to get more of it up…into her. I looked up and noticed, though trying to concentrate on the tattoo, Dusty was watching her too. And he was sweating as well. Then I looked to my right and Ingwe, Thor and Jesus, were at the poker table, but frozen stiff. Their eyes were like cartoons. I think Thor might have had his dick out but then he noticed me watching him and shifted. Then, out of nowhere, I raised up from Dusty’s lap, and screamed, “Tracey! What the fuck are you doing?” Just as I said this, Tracey stopped, looked up at me, her eyes wide and crazy, grabbed her clothes, quickly got up staggering around the room, and ran into a back room. But before she disappeared completely, she came back, picked up her shoes, and the salami, looked at me, then hoofed it.

Around ten o’clock the next morning, I heard a door slam and suddenly, loud, glass breaking in the kitchen. I noticed Tracey was not around, as we’d been sharing the same bedroom since we’d arrived. When I came into the front room, Beau was sitting on the kitchen floor covered in broken booze bottles and dishes, clutching onto a full bottle of tequila. I looked up and saw Jesus standing in the hallway, just standing there rubbing his eyes.

I screamed at him for help, “don’t just fucking stand there asshole! Help me get him up!”

We managed to get him up and into one of the dining room chairs. Then we both noticed blood running down his arms, and at that point, Jesus disappeared into the back again. I thought he’d gone for gauze or bandages of whatever, but a few moments later, he, Ingwe and Thor were slipping out the side door, muttering, “adios” and, “later bros.” Then, just as they were making their getaway, Thor’s hammer caught hold of the doorframe, ripped open his pocket and fell to the floor. Bending to pick it up, he looked up at me, and I asked him, “where’s Tracey?”

Stuffing his hammer into his other back pocket, he said quietly, “I think she’s in my van. I’ll go and get her.”

Beau just sat there with his eyes closed, holding the bottle of tequila. I didn’t know what to say. Then I noticed a dull pain coming from my left arm, and only then did I remember the tattoo. I hadn’t even seen it yet. Now was most definitely not the time. I stood there in complete silence, watching the blood slowly trail down Beau’s arm and into a small puddle on the kitchen floor. Then the side door opened and Tracey came in. She looked like shit. I noticed her jean skirt was on backward. I just looked at her.

Then Tracey, seeing the blood, “oh my God Beau! You’re fucking bleeding! Shit!”

She made a run for the back bathroom but before she got past Beau, he grabbed her by the shirt and told her to stop.

Finally he looked up, turned to me and with his eyes still closed said, “you guys need to go now.”

By my rough estimations, it would be around four more hours to get to the Canadian border. Tracey and I drove on in silence as everything slowly turned silver blue, rain coming down in large full drops. I stayed behind a white freightliner for most of the way to Seattle. For a while, I just kept stared at the truck’s mud flaps in a hypnotic daze, the chrome naked lady silhouettes now and then catching sun from somewhere in the sky. We drove straight through Seattle without even noticing.

Finally Tracey spoke, “so…what exactly…”

Before she could finish, “I don’t know.”

We had to pull over to use the restroom. I finished before Tracey so I smoked a cigarette and then waited for her in the truck. I looked down at the floorboard on Tracey’s side and noticed that the cassette tape was not there any more. I looked up and saw her coming out of the women’s restroom. She had changed her clothes and now had on a white t-shirt and a pair of green army pants, her hair pulled up in a ponytail. She got into the truck and once again there was silence. I asked her if she needed anything else and if she was ready to go.

Then Tracey turned to me and said, “Am I a shitty mother?”

“Define shitty.” I said.

I started the engine and Tracey reached over and turned the ignition off. She lit a cigarette and started talking very fast. “I mean…it’s one thing to fuck off your own life but other people’s…right? I mean we all…”

I put my hand up and told her to stop.

The rain was not letting up. I drove to the end of the ramp and stopped. We were the only ones on the overpass. To the right was north, Canada, rose garden. And straight ahead, over the bridge and then left was…south, California, home.

Tracey pretty much wrote off the entire state of Oregon by falling into a deep delirium-dripped dream. She would start laughing hysterically then go into fits of crying and screaming out the names of her boys. She didn’t wake up until we crossed into California. When she finally did open her eyes, she rolled down her window and held her head out until it was drenched.

I dropped Tracey off at the front door of her in-law’s house. She’d called them from the road and they were waiting for her. She grabbed her bag and slammed the door. I reached over and rolled down the window. She just stood there.

“I’ll see you.” I said.

Tracey turned, threw the bag around her shoulder, and started off to the front door. But then she stopped. She came back, reached into her hip pocket and pulled out the cassette tape. It was fixed. Completely repaired. All the tiny screws were neatly put back into place and everything appeared to be…fixed.

I waited until I was crossing the bridge and then put it in. At first, it warbled and then it skidded, and then it came to a complete halt. Coming through the tollbooth, I descended into a city covered completely in clouds. Then the tape started making these hi-pitched screams, and I had to push eject. But it wouldn’t come out. It was stuck. And just as I was about to curse Tracey again, the clouds lifted, and the music played…

“Dontcha know we belong together…

Dontcha know we belong together…

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